Apple's iPhone makeover
Apple's newest iPhones look different on the outside but the changes inside could be what really counts, with the premium 5s model selling for $199 in the US.PT2M7S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2tjeb 620 349 September 11, 2013
We can draw three lessons from the arrival of Apple's two new iPhone models, the 5c and 5s.
LESSON 1: Apple may have set its own bar for innovation too high.
Touch this: The new iPhone 5S comes with with fingerprint-recognition technology. Photo: AFP
Year after year, Steve Jobs used to blow our minds with products we didn't know we wanted. Now, two years after his death, we still expect every new iPhone to clean our gutters, cook our popcorn and levitate. So when the hardware revisions are minor each year, we're disappointed.
And sure enough, after Apple showed off its two new iPhone models last week, its share price dropped. Analysts shrugged that they contain nothing "transformative." The blogger-haters had a field day.
The budget model, the new iPhone 5c, comes in five colours (starting at $739 unlocked for the 16-gigabyte model). It's essentially identical to last year's iPhone 5, except that its back and sides are a single piece of plastic instead of metal and glass.
Colourful combination: The new iPhone 5C comes in five colours. Photo: AFP
Actually, "plastic" isn't quite fair. The 5c's case is polycarbonate, lacquered like a glossy piano. Better yet, its back edges are curved for the first time since the iPhones of 2008. You can tell by touch which way it's facing in your pocket.
It's a terrific phone. The price is right. It will sell like hot cakes; the new iPhones go on sale Friday. But just sheathing last year's phone in shiny plastic isn't a stunning advance.
LESSON 2: The smartphone is mature.
Apple unveils iPhone 5s, 5c
The iPhone 5c in green, blue, yellow, pink and white. Photo: Getty Images/AFP
The App Store filled a huge hole. Siri voice command answered a desperate need. And high-resolution Retina displays helped compensate for the tiny screen.
But today, every phone has that stuff; the big holes have been plugged. Maybe the age of annual mega-leaps is over.
The new 5s (starting at $869 unlocked for the 16-gigabyte model) looks exactly like last year's thin and gorgeous iPhone 5. You can now get it with its brushed aluminum body in dark gray (with black glass accents), silver (white accents) or a surprisingly classy-looking gold (white accents).
Apple says the 5s' chip is twice as fast as before.
Nobody was exactly complaining about the iPhone's speed before, but, sure, it's plenty quick. Since it's a 64-bit chip, Apple says the graphics in 3-D video games look especially smooth and detailed.
There's also a second chip devoted to tracking motion data from the phone's compass, gyroscope and tilt sensor. Apple says this coprocessor should save battery life when you use fitness tracking apps, because it can monitor your data all day long; the main chip, which requires six times as much power, can remain asleep.
Those are both fairly invisible changes, though.
The new camera will mean more to you. Its sensor is 15 per cent bigger, and the individual light-detecting pixels are bigger. Take photos side-by-side with the iPhone 5s' predecessor, and the difference is immediately obvious; lowlight pictures are far better on the new phone. Clearer, brighter, better colour.
The 5s also has two LED flashes - one pure white, one amber - that fire simultaneously. When mixed in the right balance, their light can match the colour tone of your subject (moonlight, streetlights, fluorescents, whatever). Apple says this idea is a first in both phones and cameras.
It really works. Flash photos look much, much better. No longer will your loved ones' skin look either nuclear white or "Avatar" blue.
The 5s camera also offers a burst mode (10 frames a second), 3X zooming during video capture, Instagram-style photo filters and truly wowing slow-motion video. (Weirdly, filtered photos and slo-mo videos don't survive the transfer to your computer, although you can send them by email or text message.)
The most heavily promoted feature is the 5s' fingerprint sensor, which, ingeniously, is built into the Home button. You push the Home button to wake the phone, leave your finger there another half second, and boom: You've unlocked a phone that nobody else can unlock, without the hassle of inputting the password. (And yes, a password is a hassle; half of smartphone users never bother setting one up.)
The best part is that it actually works - every single time, in my tests. It's nothing like the balky, infuriating fingerprint-reader efforts of earlier smartphones. It's genuinely awesome; the haters can go jump off a pier.
The 5s can also scan your fingerprint when you're buying books, music, apps and videos from Apple, saving you the password entry (although this, too, is buggy; Apple says a fix is due on Friday).
You can teach your iPhone 5s to recognise up to five fingerprints - all yours, yours and your spouse's, or whatever.
Apple says your fingerprint is stored only on your phone, encrypted and never transmitted or stored online. And using the fingerprint reader is optional; you can always use a regular password instead.
The sound quality of both new iPhones is excellent, whether up to your ear or filling your office with music. Apple says battery life is about 25 per cent better than before; I've been getting nearly two days of moderate use on a charge.
So yes, Lesson 2 is that the speed of innovation seems to be slowing down, but don't let that depress you. Focus instead on the silver lining: You can keep your current phone longer without feeling obsolete quite so soon.
(Speaking of obsolescence: If you've held out upgrading since the iPhone 4 or 4S, remember that the new phones use Apple's new charging connector. It doesn't fit any existing charging cables, speaker docks or alarm clocks without an adapter. Grrr.)
LESSON 3: If we're reaching a point of diminishing returns in hardware breakthroughs, the software breakthroughs are only just getting underway.
The new iPhones come with iOS 7, a redesigned operating system. You can also install it on recent iPhone, iPad and iPod touch models.
This software looks nothing like the old iOS. It's all white and clean, almost barren. Its Home screen and dialogue boxes use thin fonts and a colour palette of bright, light hues.
Above all, it completely abandons Apple's formerly favourite design principle, skeuomorphism, in which on-screen things depict real-world materials (lined yellow paper for Notes, leather binding for Calendar, wooden shelves for iBooks).
You might love this design, and you might loathe it. You also might get used to it. But in any case, iOS 7 is more efficient to navigate, because nothing on the screen is eye candy; everything is a button, so you spend less time hunting for things.
Furthermore, Apple did an insane amount of work on features. Some are big-ticket items like Siri, which responds faster, has a more realistic voice and understands new kinds of commands (including "Make the screen brighter" and "Turn on Bluetooth").
A supremely useful Control Center offers one-touch buttons to change important settings (thanks for the idea, Android!). AirDrop shoots pictures, maps, websites and other items to nearby iOS 7 gadgets, quickly and wirelessly.
You can read a full review of iOS 7 on my blog. (A note: I have written a how-to manual to the iPhone and to iOS 7 for an independent publisher; it was neither commissioned by nor written in cooperation with Apple.)
Now, Apple's competition in the Android world is fierce and gaining; the competitors include phones that are equally beautiful (from HTC), phones that take spoken commands without your having to press a button (from Motorola) and phones in every conceivable screen size (Samsung).
But that doesn't mean that the iPhones have been overtaken. The iPhone's ecosystem is a deal-sweetening perk - the best apps; the best-stocked online stores for music and movies; smooth synchronising of your calendars, addresses and even photos among Apple phones, tablets and Macs; and enough cases and accessories to reach from the landfill to the moon.
If you wanted to summarise all three of this week's lessons into a single final thesis, here it is: Apple still believes in superb design and tremendous polish. The iPhone is no longer the only smartphone that will keep you delighted for the next two years - but it's still among the few that will.
New York Times